2022 EPC, Colonial League track and field championships
Two years ago, Damon Simpson was a part of Wilson’s 400-meter relay team that broke the Colonial League Championship meet record in 43.12.
At the 2022 Colonial League track and field championships Wednesday at Whitehall High School, the senior, along with his twin brother Damian Simpson and fellow seniors Zack Gillen and Zakai Hendricks, anchored the Warriors team that broke the league championship meet record once again in 41.96.
“It feels great our record again. It feels good to run with these guys and just keep breaking records,” Damon Simpson said. “I knew that they would give me a good start. I just wanted to break the record.”
Before the record-breaking relay, Damon Simpson claimed gold in the 100-meter dash for the second straight year, edging Damian Simpson by .07 with a time of 10.81. Damian didn’t seem to mind that silver medal moments after the relay.
“It feels amazing. I didn’t really run (the 400 relay) the last three years, but now, to run a 41, break a time we didn’t think we could break; it’s crazy,” Damian Simpson said.
Gillen led the relay off and passed the baton to Damian.
“I think just coming to practice, working hard every day, if you’re injured or recovering, stretching getting back to 100 percent so you could give full effort every meet,” Gillen said.
“We came in hoping to do that. We’ve been practicing really hard, practicing handoffs because handoffs are the most important thing,” Hendricks added. “I threw my arms up in the air, because we were trying to break 42 (seconds) and we did it. It feels good.”
The Wilson boys team finished third in the team standings with 81 points. Southern Lehigh won the league title with 132 points and Palmerton finished in second with 94 points.
Spartan senior Chase Hensinger broke the meet and program record in the 800-meter run in 1:55.28.
“I worked all four years, I really always wanted this. This always was a goal for me when I got to high school,” Hensinger said. “I definitely had a lot of confidence going into this because earlier this season I ran a 1:56 and I heard the league record was a 1:55.92. I had confidence going into it. It was really my main goal going into it, first off getting my school record and, coming from there, getting the league record. I had two goals.”
Hensinger, who plans to compete on the track team at Shippensburg University, had to wait a few seconds to celebrate his accomplishment due to sheer exhaustion.
“When I crossed that line, I was happy but I was sore at the same time. I crashed to the ground and I had great people around me in the race to help me up and then all the emotions came out when I got up. I was extremely happy,” Hensinger said.
Southern Lehigh sophomore Jack Inglis won gold in the 110-meter hurdles in 15.68.
Palisades junior Thomas Smigo, who set the championship meet record in the 3,200-meter run in 9:27.89 during the first day of the meet, claimed another gold in the 1,600 meter-run in 4:24.55.
“I think it was really cool especially since the guy who had it was Jeff Dobias, I mean a Colonial League legend in distance events. It’s an honor to take that from him,” Smigo said with a laugh. “I did miss off on the school record. Our school record is 9:22, so I was close to that but not quite enough. I’m still going to be gunning for that in the next couple weeks.”
For much of the 1,600 meters, Smigo was just behind Southern Lehigh senior Dominik Lisicky, but pulled ahead in the final lap. Lisicky finished in second in 4:27.53.
“We raced them last week at just a regular season meet,” Smigo said. “I kind of knew what times to expect from Southern Lehigh pretty much... I feel like I have a pretty good kick, I have pretty high confidence in myself if it’s neck and neck with 200 yards left that I can pull through and win that.”
The Pirates finished in fourth with 80.33 points.
Two Pen Argyl juniors earned gold medals in field events. Taylor LaBarre improved in the triple jump by more than two feet from his mark in the prelims and finished first with a jump of 44-08.25.
“I was just surprised to be honest. I want to thank my coach, coach Josh (Houck) for everything. He’s always been there for me,” LaBarre said. “Two feet and three inches is a lot for me to be honest.”
The reason for such an improvement from the prelim to the final?
“Just pure energy,” the junior said.
Gian Greggo, who also represents the Green Knights in football and wrestling, won gold in the shot put with a personal-record throw of 51-07.5.
“Before I went into this meet (his PR) was 46-9 I believe, so a big jump,” Greggo said. “I was just feeling it… It feels great. I haven’t worn a gold medal in a while, I’m trying to think of the last time I had a gold medal around my neck. Standing on the top of the podium, it felt great.”
Salisbury senior Tyson Utesch finished first in the pole vault with a vault of 13-01. The Falcons ended the meet in fifth-place with 63.5 points.
Notre Dame sophomore Lauren Bower claimed her first Colonial League gold medal in narrow fashion. In the 400-meter run, Bower rallied to catch Southern Lehigh sophomore Alexandra Lea and, thanks to a late lean at the finish line, finished .07 seconds ahead of the Spartan with a time of 1:00.17.
“I was really happy with my lane choice because, how I prefer to run it is, look at someone from the back and get them like I did,” Bower said. “Right at the end I just used my arms and leaned the entire way.”
As a freshman, Bower racked up silver medals at both leagues and districts while Pen Argyl standout Delaney Porter claimed gold. That experience fueled Bower on Wednesday evening.
“I really wanted to win the race because last year I kept getting second. I got second at leagues, districts, I did well at states but again the same girl got me. This year I wanted to come back and try to win,” Bower said. “It was great, I’ve been wanting that for a whole year.”
The Crusaders finished in sixth place with 64 points.
The Southern Lehigh 400-meter relay team of seniors Chase Marley, Taylor Graver, Madison Trout and Lea also broke the championship meet record. The Spartans’ time of 49.50 broke the meet record by .5 seconds and also set a program record.
“It’s really exciting because not only did we set the school record. All of us have been working really hard together perfecting handoffs and just little things that would help us subtract time,” Lea said.
Trout, who claimed gold in the 100-meter dash in 12.30 and in the 200-meter dash in 25.67, agreed that the relay team’s success came down to the details.
“Getting down to the little things within our handoffs and cutting off steps, adding steps, and figuring out when to put our hand back, those little things are like tenths of a second. Getting down to the small things that you might not think about first really helped us achieve that time,” Trout said.
Chase anchored the unit which finished 1.28 seconds ahead of the second-placed team from Wilson.
“Throughout the race, I couldn’t really see the first handoff so I was worried but once I was in the clear and could see everyone, I was excited and my adrenaline was rushing. I was just ready to get the handoff and finish it off,” Chase said.
“Being a part of this team has been really amazing because we’re all so close and we work together really well in practice and in meets,” Graver added.
Southern Lehigh sophomore Emily Stock earned gold in the 1,600-meter run in 5:24.43.
The Spartans girls team also won the title, finishing with 171 points. Palmerton finished as runners up with 81 points while Palisades finished in third place with 75 points and Northwestern Lehigh was one point behind the Pirates in fourth place.
Palmerton swept the three field events on the second day of the championship meet.
Senior Ana Recker claimed gold in the pole vault with a vault of 10-03. Sophomore Jessica Heydt won the shot put with a throw of 32-08.5 and freshman Nataly Walters won the triple jump with a jump of 37-08.75.
Northwestern Lehigh junior Faith Yost won the 100-meter hurdle in 15.88. The Tigers’ 1,600-meter relay team of senior Jakayla Holmes, junior Naomi Glassberg, sophomore Grace Yost and freshman Norah Silfies earned gold in 4:14.59.
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